Here’s a terrific piece by Harry McCracken over at Technologizer asking “Whatever Happened to the Top 15 Web Properties of April, 1999?” McCracken goes through the hottest web properties of April 1999 and asks, “How many of 1999’s Web giants remain gigantic today — assuming they still exist at all?” Instead of reproducing his entire list here, I’ll just encourage you to go over to Technologizer and check it out for yourself, especially because McCracken also compares the old list to today’s top 15 Web properties. Anyway, here’s the key takeaway from his piece:
to summarize, four of April 1999’s top Web properties remain in the top fifteen (plus AltaVista, Excite, and GeoCities, which are extant and part of top-10 properties). Four more are in the top 50, or are part of properties that are. Two exist but have fallen out of the top 50. And two (Xoom and Snap) no longer exist. Bottom line: If you were one of the Web’s biggest properties a decade ago, chances are high that you remain in business in some form in 2009… but you probably aren’t still a giant.
In other words, it’s a dynamic marketplace with a lot of churn and creative destruction. Sure, some big dogs from the late 90s remain (Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo, and CNet). But they have all been humbled to some extent. Moreover, lots and lots of other players were driven from the top ranks or disappeared altogether. (GeoCities, Lycos, Excite, AltaVista, Xoom, Snap). And there have been new technologies, platforms, and players that have come out of nowhere in a very short time to become the household names of 2009 (Google, Facebook, MySpace, Wikipedia). But, as McCracken points out, it’s anyone’s guess which of today’s top Web properties will still be booming in 2019. Anyway, I encourage you to check out McCracken’s very interesting essay, and if you find this sort of restrospective piece interesting, you might also want to check out my essay from earlier this year, “10 Years Ago Today… Thinking About Technological Progress“.